Colleen's thoughts on writing, directing and coaching, and her unique take on life itself!

Saturday, March 06, 2010

Writing a screenplay based on personal experience

... is much more exciting than I expected.

While I was living it, it didn't feel nearly as dramatic, but then there is this thing called artistic license. Still, the adventure itself was plenty engaging so there's no need to embellish - better to grind down to the innate truth of each character and the story worthy of an audience's attention.

It's made me pay attention to the truths that all the characters in the story experienced, rather than focusing only on my own point of view of what took place at the time. It's enlightening and entertaining for me - I'm working hard to make sure it translates for everyone watching as well.

Engaging with the central character, a truly unique and terrific teenager worth knowing, will hopefully give every viewer the chance to grow just a little, and feel good for having known him.

It is hard, however, not to make my own role in this scenario too complimentary! I have to tell the truth, the whole truth, yadda yadda. Maybe in the second draft.. ;-)

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Saturday, October 10, 2009

Writing is such sweet misery...

I'm in the throes of rewriting my new film script THE LONELY GOATHERD ("All Harry ever wanted was a wife and kids. He got half his wish...") - which inspired my recent blog on the hair-pulling, breathe-in-a-paper-bag, sleepless, eat-everything-in-sight to "carb up" to prepare for my writing marathon.

And how different - lost and crazed - I look when I actually write than how I appear in the photos of me they attach to the work, in which I appear so calm and collected.

Having butted heads with the important changes I see and how I need to make them in the script thanks to insightful - and affordable - notes from LA script analyst Michael Cheda, who was referred by the dearly missed, late screenwriter and author (Save the Cat!) Blake Snyder.

While still a whole lotta fun, the story has a little more truth injected into its structure and characters; in an edgy comedy script like this it's easy to get goofy, and therefore unbelievable. That doesn't serve the characters or the work as a whole.

Like all writers, I LOVE to do minor but important tasks that take me away from my computer - alphabetizing my sock drawer, painting the dogs' toenails (choosing the right color can take hours), checking my horoscope to see what Christmas gifts I should get friends - or if I should.

I mean, if my horoscope says I'm in for a stormy time with pals ... well, there ya go. Money saved.

Or, if-



Back to work.

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Saturday, October 03, 2009

Image vs Reality

Every time I see the picture of a writer, any writer - book author, screenwriter, playwright, yadda yadda - he or she always looks very cool. Calm. Collected. Smart. Sharp dresser. With a "knowing" sort of look.

Like their life is easy. At least compared to the rest of us.

They all have this "life is a piece of cake" expression. Like Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist Richard Russo's photo here.

You know what I mean.

As much as we're aware those are professional shots, carefully choreographed and styled, we still tend to believe the image.

I think that's half the reason just about everyone I meet tells me they want to be a writer. Because they look like they have the best ever understanding of how to be successful. Or at least look successful. And completely stress-free.

Did you know an author's photograph is directly tied to the marketing success of a book?

I write about this because regardless of whether the photograph is the picture of the actual writer, to a snapshot, they're all lies.

Lies, do you hear me?

Because writers wouldn't be writers in the first place if we had life by the tail. Something happened to us somewhere along the way that makes us want to tell you our story - in a way we trust someone will pay attention to. Someone will listen to us - read us, watch us, whatever.

It struck me that while people can help me look assembled, relaxed and casually on top of the world - like this old picture of me that's on my book Mind Over Media, it is in no way even close to how I look when I'm writing.

When we write we all suffer at some point(s), stressing out about whether we have found just the right word, if our stories (non-fiction or fiction) are strong, impacting and well constructed enough; characters clear and sharp enough; arguing and laughing with our muses and spiritual sources in the universe if we have them.

And we tend to personally and physically dis-assemble while we undergo the process of purging words into the world.

Creating something out of nothing.

You know where I got the idea for the meltdown scene look for Elisabeth Röhm's character in THE WHOLE TRUTH? The photo currently featured on our poster for the film? Looking in the mirror as I wrote the script.

Despite looking fashionably poised in this 1938 photo, I bet Martha Mitchell went just a little crazy when she wrote Gone With the Wind.

Some writers are so sensitive they can't stand the sweet misery that is writing. It gets too painful for them, and my heart goes out to them.

Some resort to chemical and other pain-killers to cope, but I stopped doing any of that decades ago because it takes off my edge and I love my edge.

So why do it?

It's just something we can't NOT do.

We simply have to do it because ... well, because it's something we're evidently created to do.

Created to create, that's why we're here.

Frequently I ask myself, "How did I get myself into this situation?" What am I doing here in this scene with all these characters? Why can't I be happy with a more secure, easier way to make a living?

There are those writers who simply put in their four hours, going to their offices, putting out the verbiage they are capable of producing that day.

I'm too passionate and physical to just sit there calmly; I need to grapple with all that I expect from myself. I talk to my characters; I listen to them, my muses and other voices in my head that hopefully result in something that makes it worth your while to watch, read or hear.

I maintain, however, no matter how cool those post-publication/production pictures look, we - most of us, anyway - go through a hair-pulling, crazy-making, breathe-in-a-paper bag experience procedure sculpting words on the page, and do not in any way resemble the photographs of us published on our books.

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Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Write what you know - or not .....

Perhaps the most often piece of advice given by writing teachers is to "write what you know."

Or "write about something with which you are familiar."

I know an extremely successful screenwriter, Michael Brandt (Wanted, 3:10 to Yuma, Courier, the Wanted sequel - Wanted: Weapons of Fate, many more and he's preparing to direct his first feature now!), who disagrees.

He says that his success comes from writing about what he doesn't know; subjects with which he is not familiar.

Even though I have incorporated things about which I know in my screenplays, I agree with him.

When we write about something we know, we can get bogged down with too much knowledge about the subject, and when we approach a subject from our knowledgeable point of view, we may not understand the reader's - completely in the dark - perspective.

There's a level of assumption about subjects we write for which we have a lot of - perhaps even too much - knowledge.

I definitely found this to be true in my work with THE WHOLE TRUTH - a film involving something about which I'm considered an "expert." I'd assume knowledge of the reader or audience because in my mind, certain things automatically made sense. But to an unassuming newcomer to the subject?

For my next film, THE LONELY GOATHERD, I knew *nothing* about the subjects I wrote. I had to do extensive research - books, videos, films and lots of hands on experience and education with live goats of all kinds and people who care for them.

All the other elements of the story were brand new to me as well. More massive research and character development for me. Plus that, most of the action takes place in Switzerland!

So how did I come up with the story? A story I've come to love - along with all its characters?

The Seven Steps.

The Seven Steps were developed by an actor several years ago - and are taught today by some writing teachers as a way to encourage students to fearlessly create stories.

I used them when I coached writers to help free creative juices and get my coachees to develop a number of potential projects on which to work. The most important use of these steps is to force the writer to complete a full story, from beginning to end.

Without a complete "story spine," most beginning writers (and even lots of pro's) run into walls in the second act.

After each step, just fill in the blank and move on to the next step. They're good for any genre of story, light or dark, comedy or drama, happy and unhappy endings.

Mind you, this is not designed to be an outline of the entire story, just a follow through line that keeps your story on track. It's like the Christmas tree without the needles and decorations.

Here they are:

1. Once upon a time ...

2. And every day ...

3. Until one day ...

4. And because of that ...

5. And because of that ...

6. Until finally ...

7. And ever since then ...

If you're interested in writing, I recommend you create as many stories as possible as quickly as possible using the seven steps. They aren't ideal for every writer, but they certainly do stimulate the imagination and lots of ideas!

Here's a silly sample of how to complete The Seven Steps:

1. Once upon a time ... (there were two high school teenagers who hated their French teacher)

2. And every day ... (they would plot ways to kill that teacher)

3. Until one day ... (they saw and seized their chance to send him into the next world - they drove him off the road, over a cliff!)

4. And because of that ... (while they had no French homework, they became increasingly nervous because the police came to school, asking everyone if they had seen the French teacher)

5. And because of that ... (they grew short tempered with one another, making sure each kept his story straight, that they remembered exactly "where they were" and "what they were doing" away from the scene of the crime)

6. Until finally ... (a persistent police officer who had visited the school several times asked the boys if they would accompany him. They found the teacher in a crashed car and needed an identification. Relieved, they willingly followed the police officer into the hospital - assuming they were going to the morgue. To their horror, they were taken to a hospital room - where the bandaged, oxygen-masked French teacher, both legs elevated in splints, weakly pointed to the boys as his assailants)

7. And ever since then ... (the boys have been in juvenile detention, sentenced to ten years of French lessons)

That's just off the top of my head. You can no doubt do better - please do! And don't fret over your choices, just go for it. It only took me a couple minutes to come up with the French students' dilemma.

Give your character(s) a happy ending! Or not...

Mostly, just enjoy the process - don't make it feel like it's laborious.

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Monday, March 09, 2009

Creative collaborators

There are a number of ways artists can be "juiced" or inspired to create fine work.

Franz Schubert's was to be thrilled by nature. Walking or riding through a forest, taking a leisurely paddle across a lake or simply watching birds fly and sing would send his brilliant mind into action, "hearing" the music he composed.

Johann Strauss wrote phenomenal music dedicated to cities and rivers and meadows and other beautiful works created by humans and God.

The inspiration to create can take many forms: a person or a pet; a flower or a plant; a spiritual guide or a talisman; a favorite place or even a very breath of life itself.

Those specifically identified sources of artistic inspiration are generally called a muse.

Innumerable famous painters believed their lovers were their muse; in some cases they claim that a sexual component of a muse-ment is necessary because it replicates the origin of life. This, in turn, imitates the gestation and birth of art.

While there might well be a human with whom one has a sexual relationship who is the primary inspiration for an artist of any craft, too often sexual relationships fade, then disappear. The artists then feel they must continue to find more muses or, they believe, their work will suffer.

The idea of having a muse is a psychological game we all play with ourselves. It's fun and exciting. But an artist who believes that something outside himself or herself influences inspiration for work is at the mercy of a muse.

If one depends on their art/craft for a living, this can get dicey. We can't sit around hoping that someone or something will excite us enough to work - or do our very best work, exceeding all we've accomplished before.

So those who choose a constantly renewable resource as a muse can do very well for their entire working life. A forest, a river, the sky, one's own breath.

Those whose human muses who are sure to be with them forever are also blessed - a devoted spouse, a true friend.

I'm not comparing myself to any great artist, but I have more than one muse - including a person that I only recently realized *is* my human muse. I expect my anthropoid muse to be in my life for as long as we both are alive and beyond. My other muses include my pets, my home, music, drawing, painting, burning candles, live performances, singing, dinner with friends, my breath, my spirituality, the universe, a good massage, and last but not least, nature.

In short, it doesn't take much to inspire me.

I write every day and enjoy it, even when I'm having difficulty figuring out a character, plot. location or story issue. I'm very fortunate that way, and give thanks for it every day. Many writers - including some fine, gifted writers - do not enjoy the process. Some suffer mightily at the sight of a blank screen or piece of paper.

That's one level of creating - whether it's writing, painting, directing, composing, drawing or singing - getting started.

Another level is that of working with a creative collaborator.

This can be a coach, a teacher, a mentor, a knowledgeable spouse or friend, or someone with whom you work who has a significant and special insight into your heart, mind and work.

This person is someone who pushes you to dig deeper, research more, toil harder, reach higher and do better than you ever thought possible - while never doing the work for you. He or she does not even hint at what he or she believes you "should" write, say, do.

My creative collaborator is our literally famous producer, Larry Estes.

He has a way of asking questions about my scripts that make me do whatever it takes to figure out the answers that will make a character's motives laser clear, the character's psychological profile perfect, the character's behavior more believable and the dialogue more true to life.

Larry has never dealt with me in a way that makes me feel I've let him down or not met his expectations. Perhaps it's because he knows how very dedicated I am and how hard I work.

But he does always wonder - "why" something happens or doesn't happened and "how" this could be the outcome, given the circumstances that occurred on page 3?

A little background:

Larry has produced or been part of a production team for more than 80 independent films, many of them memorable award winners (sex, lies and videotape, gas food lodging and so many more). Over the past few decades he's worked with the likes of Steven Soderbergh and a legion of other notable writers, directors, actors - most of whom you'd know on sight or by name.

When I told him I was going to THE L-WORD wrap party? He says, "Say 'hi' to Jennifer Beals ..." as well as one of the directors on the show, and on it goes.

You'd never know it by his demeanor or his attitude. Like me, he's totally down to earth and all about the work. I think we even dress alike. Actually, this is not a good thing and our costumer Rebecca Luke is determined to change that by outfitting me in real clothes that make me look *good!*

Larry likes to find people whose stage in their craft is developed enough that he can consider producing their work, and, hopefully, artists with whom he has fun working. The two too seldom go hand in hand.

Debbie, his wife of nearly 30 years is the love of his life (as he is hers); he understands what a rare and sensational phenomenon this is, so isn't one to need or seek other sources of happiness.

I'm happy to say, however, that we have fun!

The joy of my life since I started working with him (less than a year ago) is to *blow him away!* I *live* to surprise the heck out of him by exceeding every expectation he has for me writing, directing and producing.

The look on his face, the exclamation of his voice, the blizzard blink of his eyes, the shaking of his head, the smile and the breath of disbelief is exhilarating!

Another thing - he doesn't let me "get away" with anything. I try to plug in a "sort of" scene until I can come back and do it right. Um, no. He catches the pseudo scene and, instead of asking, "what the hell is this??" Instead asks, "How would this work?" "Why is she doing this here?" "I'm having trouble following your logic, here."

Yeah, yeah. OK. Then I do it not only "right" but better than anything he thought he'd read on the page.

At least that what he says - and I'm doing the Snoopy dance! Oh, joy!

If you travel around Los Angeles with him, Larry has approximately 2,398 stories of famous people with whom he's worked HERE (as you pass a building) and had dinner at her house THERE (as you pass a lovely home) and THIS IS WHERE (some great film he green-lit or worked on) was made (as you pass what used to be a studio building or low road location).

With Larry's feedback (anyone else who has feedback now goes through him because he's got the knack for asking me just the right questions), I just finished the official white script for THE LONELY GOATHERD.

Now I'm underway, as you know, Gentle Reader, to write the best and most unusual screenplay I've ever written, SPARE CHANGE. I could be intimidated, especially because every one's expectations of it - including mine - are so high, and the lead actors are amazing.

But with Larry as my creative collaborator, and all those muses I told you about? It's just a matter of using the typical formula for writing: place butt in seat, fingers on keys, head in research and background work, keep mind open to receive whatever the universe wants to offer up, and fill up blank screens and paper pages (I tend to write on anything that's nearby).

How lucky am I?

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Saturday, November 03, 2007

Good vibes!

The executive producer and his partner are thrilled with the first draft of the new screenplay; November is dedicated to finessing and rewriting it to make it as perfect as it can be.

We'll have an actor's reading -- where I cast actors to portray the characters in a sit-down read - in December for potential investors, film industry folks and "earthlings" - real people - after which we're creating a production schedule unless it's picked up by a studio -- which wouldn't happen until the Writer's Guild of America strike is over.

What a lot of work -- research, details, character development and dialogue finessing. But I must say I'm very proud of it.

Wow. It feels so good to have escorted this high caliber script through a powerful, quality first draft, on its way to an excellent finish.

Next month I'll be finessing my two romantic comedy feature scripts and either talk with non-signatory producers or do what I can to get the scripts produced or sell them without crossing the WGA "picket line."

What an enriching experience this last script development and writing has been. I love writing scripts that have so much substance and depth they change my life. I guess that's why I write -- all four scripts I've worked on this year have been like that. VERY kewl.

I may even take a day off to play in honor of the work!

I'll let you know every detail as soon as I am free to disclose everything!

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Monday, October 22, 2007

What's your identity?

A feature script I'm writing has become a journey by just about all its characters to find their personal identities, which in turn relates to how they wish to show who they are to others.

Interestingly, they all use significant addictions - to everything from tradition to religion to gambling, drugs and more - to distract themselves from discovering who they are.

Even the characters who seem to be "just fine" discover they are also immersed in habits that prevent them from seeking who they really are because their goal is only to fit in.

One thing is clear about our youngsters: when we don't allow and encourage them to develop their true core identity, they will find one - whether it has anything to do with who they actually are or not. But it will give them a sense of belonging and purpose - no matter how negative.

Interestingly, only one person in this milieu worked to find who he really is and lives in peace among all the others because of it. For he has nothing to prove, nothing to hide and nothing to hide from - including himself.

Fascinating journey for me as well, creating all these characters and their dilemmas. Of course there's the drama of all this, but there's comedy, too. Usually a comedy of errors!

Pretty exciting stuff for this writer.

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Monday, August 13, 2007

Tired of "twisted" "blood-drenched" films?

Even "good" ones with great acting?

I am.

I think a lot of people are, which is why we're turning out in droves to watch some good clean fun films for the whole family.

After having been a journalist and seeing too much of the real thing I had no stomach for fake blood and guts, thank you, so I was pretty much out of the Quentin Tarantino fan club before it formed.

I think our troops in Iraq are seeing more blood and guts and gore than any movie could capture, and as much fun as it is to portray phony horror and grisly murders, I'd really rather find a reason to laugh these days - on set and in private.

It's why most of the scripts I'm writing are edgy comedies.

I'm really looking forward to the LA script conference I'm having this week for one of my new screenplays. Hopefully they will experience it as a pee-your-pants funny film that is, as one screenwriter who has read it declared it, a "one of a kind" family movie that will stay with you and make you smile for a long, long time.

I'll keep you in the "loop!" ;-)

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Monday, July 30, 2007

My new projects

Last week I wrote the script and did all the preproduction work for directing a commercial I'm shooting this coming Thursday.

Preproduction means: working the set into place (designing it), props, cast, hair, make-up, costume, lighting, camera angles, sound, working with my lead actress (who will undoubtedly be a star after this) - the script is letter perfect, not a single change needed.

I'll also be working with a 3 year-old boy, whom we'll put on the set at the very last minute because he has one word to say - several times - then he has an action to perform. I have an understudy in case the first boy doesn't quite get what to do quickly.

I expect to get it done fast anyway because we don't want any cranky kids to deal with! And I work really well with kids.

Especially the kids who want to be returned to their mommy if they do what I tell them ... ;-)


I'm very fortunate to know a writer/director whose fantastic equipment we'll be using for the shoot, making it just a cut above technically while still looking not too polished so it can resonate with the audience.

As soon as we finish shooting Thursday, the video is being whisked to the editor, whom I shall join when I return from an out of town trip to fine tune it, frame by frame (I'm one of those hands-on directors).

When it's finished, by the end of this coming weekend, we'll upload it to the sponsors, and my blog if my webmaster can put it up here framed, then you can judge for yourself.

It's fun, funny and memorable, so I think the product reps as well as audiences will appreciate it.

I'm working with some GREAT people -- cast and crew. Hopefully I can post it here - it will be :30 seconds, and it will be available other places online and possibly even network TV. I'll keep you updated.

I'm also doing a lot of unexpected in-depth research for my new screenplay. Even though the story is very serious, I want to present it as a comedy because it would be tough to take in as a drama - but you'll get what you need to out of it while you're laughing. I'm really in favor of enlightening experiences with as little suffering as possible....

The two leads are put on the "horns of a dilemma," which means that just about any answer or solution they come up with is uncomfortable to both of them. They both have a lot to lose by getting what they want and need.

And of course whatever they do affects everyone around them. So do we go for our passion knowing that in the end everyone will benefit? Or do we spare everyone any discomfort by trying to compromise what in the end we know is the truth?

I'll leave it at that.

All the research is about how do we deal with dilemmas, rather than problems.

Dilemmas deal with two choices, neither of which is "acceptable." -- problems can usually be worked out with everyone winning in one way or another because one choice is generally best.

Lots of philosophical reading, because these characters have to do it poorly - mess up along the way -- as well as figure out how to properly figure out what to do in the end. And there can be no "tricks" or phony secrets that suddenly pop up to make the work any easier.

In fact, every obstacle they face has to be greater and make their work more difficult.

In the end, does one give up? Is it just too hard to figure out?

Or are they both equally as committed to work it through, no matter what it takes, while still being sensitive to the needs of others involved?

Mind you, both have a *lot* to lose no matter which way they turn ... and they must figure out if that loss is worth the journey. Is this issue really worth the immense loss? Is it a short term gain, long term loss? Or a short term loss with a long term gain?

Defining their personalities is something they can help me with as I fill my mind up with all the choices we can possibly have; they'll pick and choose based on their background and personalities.

I also outlined three more screenplays, one of which is very commercial and would sell the quickest, but I need to go through this journey with characters suffering the process of seeking their way out of a dilemma because it's so complex, difficult and challenging for me.

I figure between this work and all the others I've done, I should be able to make it through any writing challenge after this.

Back to work, me!

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Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Shoulder to shoulder

I'm not talking about marching or working together, I'm talking about tension.

Stress. And the management thereof!

I've had a lot on "my plate" recently, and I finally realized how much when I looked in the mirror and saw my shoulders were up past my ears, plastered against my head. They're so high my arms reach out several inches above everything I'm trying to touch, pick up or hold.

Time to de-stress. Relax.

Interestingly, my four pets don't tend to reflect my stressed out periods. They continue to be chill, which is *great.* I'm not sure what I would do if all 5 of us were on our very last nerve!


Perhaps that is why pets are supposed to be so good for our blood pressure. They know what's really important - naps, pets and hugs, food, water, toys, access to a yard, safety - and not necessarily in that order.

I sent the first draft of my screenplay to the committee in LA, so that's a huge relief. While I was writing it, I outlined another screenplay to work on now. Or I could also work on the rewrite of another script that is a kiss away from being sale-able.

The story/outline for my new story reads like it's a drama, but I want to write it as a comedy because watching the drama would be less enticing.

So, back to deep breathing exercises, meditating, massages, taking a jacuzzi, a nice bath with candles at night, planning meals and having meals on at least somewhat of a scheduled basis, more walking, working out at the gym, getting a full night's sleep, putting my house back together, cleaning it, paying bills and socializing!

I'm getting together next week with a dear friend for an extended period of several hours over a meal through the evening, which I just love. Chat, chat, chat. And that includes a simultaneous animal play date for our pets!

Movies and Mariners games, visiting a friend and her baby, walking around Green Lake, tennis, going to a batting cage and more. Whew. Back on track.

Something I want to change: when I work on the final writing stages of any project - which can take from one to three weeks - I tend to become tunnel-visioned about working on it, and I'd like to make it more of a strategic, streamlined schedule.

That's a little difficult when I spend several hours a week coaching and working on a variety of other projects, such as my column for movieScope magazine and other exciting ventures people ask or hire me to do. And I love being a think tanker. Or a thinker tank person. Or a thinker tanker .. or .. Anyway, it feels good to be asked for my opinion of this or that and get paid for it!

So I want to keep more careful track of my working schedule with all I have going on, and I'm getting very good at saying no to things I simply can't do because I need not to overextend myself - that puts me in the stressed mindset to get so much work done in a short time, because even though I'm pretty good at everything I do, something loses in its quality and I can't tolerate sacrificing quality for anything.

My work, projects, coaching, relationships or life.

Balance. Scheduling. Being flexible but not to the point of breaking from trying to respond to too many jobs and too many requests. And naps. I have a very good friend who is a best-selling author and screenwriter and wonderful, charming individual who swears by her naps, and I'm getting in the swing of them now!

It also makes a difference that my hair is finally growing back in after being done with chemotherapy more than two years, now. That stuff is finally, finally working its way out of my system in a noticeable way. That feels great!

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Friday, July 13, 2007

Crunch time

If you are a faithful blog reader, you know I've been completing the first draft of a new comedy feature script I'm writing for a deadline the past couple weeks.

It's the hardest writing work I've ever done because I've learned some new things recently that deepen my screenplay with character, structure and story details, and want to apply them. But dealing with these enormous changes and challenges consistently, persistently, paid off yesterday.

When I awoke yesterday - the full day dedicated to writing - everything fell completely into place. It all made sense; everything was factually and common sensibly logical -- even though you will be surprised at every turn.

The fun twists and turns may be perceived as unexpected, but in reality all the groundwork is laid for the film to show exactly the way characters I've created would actually react! Well, OK, there is some exaggeration in a couple of scenes. After all it is a comedy.

The key to making it to the point of joy was to stick with it day in and day out, to tough it out, to keep researching, do the ground work and put words on the screen.

It is like making my way up a steep roller coaster rail, one click at a time, until I reach the top and have a blast on the ride down! Especially since I'm coming in for a landing soon.

Honestly I was surprised at the quality of work I read when I reviewed it. Not that many changes in store for it so I did not have to spend additional hours rewriting or editing.

Still, make no mistake. The definition of writing is: rewriting. Rewriting to the 10th power.

I love this creative process - every bit of it. The highs, the lows, the yes's, the no's, the night sweats caused by trying to figure out how the heck he does that and she doesn't, the sleepless nights, the headaches, heartaches, victories, joy, laughs, frustration, dedication, devotion, artistic expression, personal fulfillment and success that only happens with persistence, persistence, persistence.

The creative spirits and forces share our journey; as long as they are with us we can't go wrong.

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Friday, July 06, 2007

I'm writing!

My new screenplay's first draft should be finished by Monday!

I'm pretty much writing around the clock except for walking dates with friends - I'm on a roll!

Oh - yeah. And there's that deadline.

This gives you the perfect opportunity to read all the blog entries you haven't!

Have a marvelous weekend!

There is so very much to write about when I return -- news, my muse, views, blues, gurus and hues -- I can hardly wait!

Thanks for tuning in - see you Monday!


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Friday, June 08, 2007


I normally write a minimum of two hours a day, up to 16 hours if I'm in a creative frenzy because the words won't stop flying through my fingers.

No one tells me what to do or how much. Just me.

Any artist must be a self-starter. Self-motivated to not only create but to share and market what we create.

Best-selling author John Grisham used to write in the early morning before he went to work as a prosecuting attorney. I doubt if he thought he would become the uber-popular writer he has become, but for sure he was driven to write, to finish his book, to find someone to sell it and get it published. No one pushed him to do this, it was either inherent in his personality or he trained himself to create a successful habit.

Some have said that in fact, success is a habit.

Self-starting is not always a natural trait, but it surely is the only way we can succeed in almost any field, most particularly any of the arts. Writing, directing, acting, painting, dancing, you name it.

Good journalists must also be particularly driven to research, dig up the truth, take chances to find information that people intentionally attempt to obfuscate or hide.

While tabloid reporters and photographers in the US may risk catching a chill waiting around to catch a pathetic glimpse of Paris Hilton or Lindsay Lohan, more than 100 real journalists were killed last year world-wide trying to get the truth out to us about wars, corruption, criminals and the exploitation of innocent citizens.

An actor told me that he "missed acting" when he wasn't in a class. Um, when I want to act, I dig up a script, develop a character, subtext, movement, and make it happen. If I want to do scene work? I call someone and we get together.

There's really no reason we can't do our art any time of the day or night, alone or with someone else. Some of my actors work with one another on the phone. That can be anything from an improvised conversation as specific characters to rehearsing a scripted scene to just chatting about subtext or other elements of character development.

I've met so many people who consider themselves artists, particularly actors, who sit around waiting for their agent to call, reading call boards or relying on others to make their careers happen for them.

I can only suggest reading my recent blog "MAKE IT HAPPEN!" (June 1, 2007) if you need any role models.

One thing I can say that makes the difference: the people, in my experience, who succeed are people who show up. There are people who, through thick and thin, show up here, plugging away. Slow and steady can create a more substantial, enduring career than fast and erratic. Probably because any work that involves humans must develop organically. That takes time and patience, steady learning and practice - and all people have peaks and valleys in the developmental process of any work that emanates from the soul.

In the end we have to ask if your heart is really in the work you're pursuing. If it's not? It's not your passion. You're just not that into it. If you're not? Keep searching for your real passion.

Believe me, when you find what you are intended to do, what makes you soar, what brings you happiness and excitement, self-starting won't even be an issue. You'll find yourself researching, doing all sorts of things on your own, finding the right coach, finding the type of a certain discipline you'd like to pursue (such as watercolors or acrylics if you're interested in painting).

To find your passion requires self-starting to begin that search.

Many people are unhappy they haven't found their passion - but they don't seem to understand that waiting around won't make that happen.

If you have the intention of finding your passion and actually tell yourself AND write out, "I want to find and practice my passion," your quest is underway. Test the waters in the area that captures your fancy. Take a class. Talk with a trusted counselor.

Do something.

Most importantly, get started. Figure out what it takes to help you be a self-starter. Is it making a list? Scheduling tasks to make it happen? Chatting with a friend? Perhaps talking with a counselor to find why you are blocking yourself from enjoying your life to its fullest might be in order.

The question to ask yourself in order to find your own path to action? "How can I find and pursue my true passion?"

And if, in the end, you need someone to push you?

You! Yeah, you!

Get started!

Good luck!

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Monday, April 02, 2007

Old relationships (can) become new again

How do you handle the termination of a relationship?

When a relationship ends for me, I consider it dead - not the entire connection, just the part that didn't work.

So that intermediate "death" isn't necessarily its final demise.

But it is terminated completely for a period of time.

After some work, I realize that I understand that the way the relationship was constructed didn't work - and how to let go of it, reconstructing a new way to relate.

Whatever dysfunction caused the problems, poison or misunderstandings between the two of us, creating the elements that killed the connection in that form - those are in the past, at least for me.

To rehash nonfunctioning behavior patterns, "offenses," disputes, accusations (baseless and real), misperceptions and perceptions only keeps us mired in the past. But to recall the feelings that we don't wish to repeat? Those I find definitely worth discussing.

That to me is the process of forgiving. I choose to forgive because I don't like to live with anger or "hardness" in my heart. Whether I choose to reconcilliate - physcially reconnect - with someone who has treated me too badly to deserve reconcilliation is beside the point .. I have to forgive them and still maintain my distance. Forgiveness is for me, not for them.

As for true reconcilliation:

Renewing the relationship means creating a whole new experience with one another - an entirely new relationship - that hopefully will show the growth both people have undertaken since the original connection ceased to exist.

I tend to forget most everything that created original communication gulfs - unless someone is outright mean, or dishonest by ommission or comission with me. Those definitley need to be clarified and reconstructed.

It's been fascinating and fun to renew past relationships after a reasonable distance of time; when we decide to make a "clean" start. Misunderstandings and misperceptions tend to get cleared up, again reflecting the personal growth we've each pursued. Although I've gone in with no expectations, it has actually worked.

These relationships tend to be different - and closer than ever. I think it's because both people are equally invested in creating and maintaining a healthy relationship. We always seem to learn things about each other we never knew.

As it say, it doesn't work all the time. But when it does?


This is also true of my writing projects. I can decide one is just not working and ready for the bin; that's when I tuck it away in the "dead pile" and forget about it.

Then one day I can see how it can achieve a higher creative value for that "dead" project. Time and zen work together and come up with the perfect way to make that script, book, essay, column or article *sing!* And not necessarily in its current form.

But in order for the conversion to be successful, I must remain open to the original project that didn't work being revised into an entirely new form. A book manuscript might works more appropriately as a script and vice versa. A short story becomes a much more suitable poem; a poem makes a more fitting and excellent essay, and so on.

Amazing how art reflects life. Or how life reflects art.

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Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Wanna take an *affordable* online Romantic screenplay writing class?

I've worked with Sally and can vouch for her dedication to empowering writers - her specialty is the romance genre (remember there's lots of hyphen genres that go with that, too -- the romcom - romantic comedy, romantic action, thriller romance, yanga yanga yanga).

Even though the course is designed for everyone - from beginners to professionals - *I'm* taking the course because Sally's such an expert in the genre I know I'll learn and receive lots of insights from her!

Here's the 4-1-1:

"Romantic Screenplays 101" Novelist-Editor-Screenwriter Sally J. Walker will walk you through an 8-Session course on the fundamentals you need to understand BEFORE you actually tackle a romantic screenplay.

This is not a course on formatting, screenwriting technicalities, fundamental concepts of screenwriting itself or how to adapt your novel to a screenplay. This is a course about "how to think" a romantic story in a cinematic structure. From essentials through character casting to plot outline, this experienced screenwriter and screenwriting TEACHER can explain the mental tools you need to create your own screenplay.


May 3...........Fundamental Concepts of a Romantic Screenplay

May 7...........3 Approaches to Romantic Screenplays

May 10.........The Unique yet Universal Hero & Heroine and Cast

May 14.........Hollywood's Need for "Sex & Violence"

May 17.........Sexual Tension vs Plot Complications

May 21.........Considerations: Time-Place and Theme

May 24.........THE Romance as Main Plot or Subplot

May 29.........Plotting YOUR Romantic Structure

Lesson Format: Definitions, Elaboration, Examples, Definitive Directives, Concluding Exercises Sally's responses to posted questions will be shared with the entire student list.

Workshop Dates: May 1 -31, 2007

Pay-Pal registration Available RWA members: $20 Non-RWA: $25 (ALL monies to go to the Chapter)

NOTE: RWA is the Romantic Writer's Association, a nonprofit educational organization --cp

Send payments via Paypal to: cameowriters@yahoo.com

For Checks or Money Orders:

Send payments to:

CAMEO Writers Inc.
Lori Arnold-Mann
3763 So. 78th St.
Omaha, NE 68124

Check out the Instructor's Bio at http://members.cox.net/sallyjwalker

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Friday, March 09, 2007

Want to be a writer?

The way to become a writer is simple.

Not easy, but simple.


That's it.


If you can write only one minute a day - creating your own work or copying someone else's (ONLY as an exercise! Not for publication!) - start writing. You can build from there.

The only way to write and get better at writing is to write.

Taking class after class of how to write, reading a bazillion books teaching you how to write, and watching every CD or DVD on the subject will NOT help you become a great, successful or accomplished writer.

Only writing and writing and writing will do that.

I know lots of people who have spent thousands of dollars on classes, books, CD's and DVD's about writing - but all it did was confuse them or make them feel like they were doing something to actually create a life of being a writer ... without writing.

Lots of professional writers check out these contributions to their craft for new insights or to support a friend's writing project, but not place of of writing every day!

Books, classes, CD's, etc., are fine as long as you continue to write, write, write.

It's the only way one succeeds at anything.

I write this today because I'm working with a couple of people who have been writing for awhile under my tutalege whose work is really kicking into high gear, these wordsmiths have become very professional. One of whom has already been making money for his writing for several months.

Recently he told me, "You know, there's really something to what you said about becoming a good writer. The more you do the better you get."

Um, right.

He's very excited about his future as a writer and he should be.

My other writer is a kiss away from being qualified to get a newswriting job at any major market TV station.

I'm delighted. And it all stems from the drive and willingness to do what it takes to write as much as they must to continue to improve the quality of their work.

When people realize what I do, they inevitably tell me they've "always wanted" to write a book or screenplay or article.

It's not enough to want to do anything. The only thing that makes it happen in real life is to write.

And write and write and write.

Oh, and reading tons of good stuff doesn't hurt, either. Especially if you find someone who creates work that you're *crazy* about!

Hopefully? One day that person whose writing you love will be *you!*

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Monday, March 05, 2007


What are your priorities?

Basically, we create priorities based on what we believe we have to do, what we believe we "should" do and what we actually want to do.

Pursuing our passion deserves our attention - do you make yours a priority?

To become great actors, writers, directors, stand-up comics, etc., growing artists need to make doing homework, finding time to audition and work a priority.

Note I say, a priority, not the main or only priority.

Everyone has a myriad of matters that need to be made a priority throughout the day - relationships, families, pets, children, home care, health matters, physical activities, and so on.

For me it's a matter of lining up tasks and activities on a daily basis - then reprioritizing them constantly throughout my day because there are so many variables and changes that can occur over which I have no power.

No two days are *ever* the same.

Someone needs an emergency coaching session, an unexpected meeting (via phone or in person) needs to take place immediately and lasts far longer than I thought it would, someone becomes ill, a friend needs a ride to the doctor, etc.

I've so many tasks that need to be prioritized daily, it's become second nature over the years.

When I prioritize I understand that some things on my list need and receive longer periods of time to complete - and others may just receive a few minutes (or even seconds).

When I prioritize I realize it's important to do certain things just about every day - even if it's just a few minutes.

That's the key - attending to things for just a couple minutes a day makes all the difference.

I recommend to writers I coach that they start with as little as ONE MINUTE a day. Do you realize how much you can write after months of just committing yourself to 1 minute a day?

Before you know it, one minute doesn't seem like enough so you bump it up to three or five - reprioritizing the other time or tasks in your day to accommodate those "lost" two to four minutes.

When he was just getting started, novelist John Grisham wrote in the mornings before going to work as a prosecutor for as many minutes as his schedule allowed - standing up with his laptop (or typewriter - I forget which) sitting on the top of his dresser drawers in his bedroom.

Often when I speak about making something a priority, I'm misunderstood to be saying that it should be catapulted to the top - as the #1 priority, when all I really mean is that it needs to find some time in a day's schedule - even if it's for a minute or two.

One thing about prioritizing - for me, it's like living in disciplined chaos. I feel like I have a little more control in this otherwise uncontrollable thing called life!

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